Qualcomm document talks tough on Nokia

Qualcomm Inc. is using its Web site for the latest shove against Nokia Corp. in the companies' ongoing legal dispute.

A document on Qualcomm's site presents what the company calls contradictory statements that Nokia has made regarding technology licensing. Qualcomm sent an e-mail message on Wednesday to direct reporters to the document, which is on the news part of its Web site.

Qualcomm and Nokia are embroiled in a dispute over patent licensing that may come to a head on Monday, when longstanding arrangements between the companies are set to expire. Nokia currently licenses cellular technologies from Qualcomm, which pioneered CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) mobile communications. Qualcomm licenses out patented technologies involved in a number of cellular systems. There are several lawsuits ongoing between the two companies.

The document, entitled "Nokia's Public Position as a Licensee vs. Nokia's Position as a Licensor," lines up statements from Nokia and observers concerning a suit filed against Qualcomm in Delaware last year next to comments taken from a Nokia suit against Spanish phone vendor Vitelcom in 2004. The Delaware suit is about Nokia licensing technology from Qualcomm, whereas the Vitelcom case involved the Spanish company using Nokia's technology.

The comments in the document on Qualcomm's site involve the sometimes thorny issue of licensing technology that is included in industry standards, which vendors need to use in order to meet those standards. In such cases, companies are generally required to license the technology on a "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" (FRAND) basis.

Qualcomm implies that Nokia has taken different positions depending whether it controls the technology or is licensing it in a particular case. For example, the document quotes Nokia as saying in the Delaware suit that if a company commits to FRAND terms, it can't seek an injunction against a user of the technology. On the other hand, Nokia sought an injunction against Vitelcom in just such a situation.

Qualcomm hadn't pointed out the supposed contradictions before because it only recently had access to the information in such a way that it could be used publicly, said Mike Hartogs, senior vice president and division counsel for Qualcomm's licensing business. Hartogs wouldn't comment on whether Qualcomm would use the statements in court.

"We've taken the position in court and in public that the view Nokia has been espousing is contradicted ... by its own actions in the past," Hartogs said.

A statement by Nokia at the beginning of the Vitelcom case suggests, however, that the case may not have been comparable to the Qualcomm dispute. Rather than arguing over the size of royalty payments, Nokia may have brought Vitelcom to court for failing to draw up any sort of contract at all for using Nokia patents.

"Vitelcom should play by the rules and licence needed intellectual property," said Ilkka Rahnasto, Nokia's vice president for intellectual property rights, in press release at that time. "We believe Vitelcom is using patented technologies without authority from or compensation to Nokia."

On Thursday, Nokia declined to comment on the Vitelcom case or the Qualcomm document.

One intellectual property lawyer not involved with either company was puzzled by Qualcomm's move in sending out the document to reporters.

"It's a little unusual for a company to engage in that sort of a negative campaign when there's litigation pending," said Darryl Woo of Fenwick & West LLP. In any case, the fact that a company took opposite positions on an issue in different cases, in different countries, probably wouldn't stand as an argument in court, he said.

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